If you’re a writer trying to wrap your mind around the business end of publishing, I hope you’re watching ABC’s Shark Tank. The show has nothing to do with publishing. But it has everything to do with understanding exactly what you’re doing when you put your query or proposal in front of an agent, editor or publishing committee. You’re going into the shark tank.
The program features venture capitalists looking for businesses in which to invest. The contestants are entrepreneurs with small businesses needing capital. Each contestant stands before the “sharks,” pitches their business, specifies the amount of money they’re asking for, and what percentage of their business they’re offering for that investment. So a guy might ask for $65,000 in return for a 15% stake in in his business; or $150,000 in return for a 30% portion of the company. The sharks get to decide whether they want to invest in the business, and they’re free to negotiate any way they want.
I love this stuff! I’m constantly noticing all the ways the whole scenario resembles publishing. When you’re trying to take your writing out of the personal realm of art and into the public realm of commerce, you’re just like these entrepreneurs asking for others to invest in them.
You’re asking a publisher to invest in you.